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As the Independent Amazon Labor Union Goes…so Goes the American Labor Movement, AFT President Says

New York, NY – No one less than the head of the biggest union inside the AFL-CIO believes the future of the American Labor Movement depends on the independent Amazon Labor Union and its continued success on Staten Island. 

“We have to support you,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told a pre-vote rally held outside Amazon’s LDJ5 sorting facility on Sunday April 24. “We must support you. Morally we must support you. Righteously we must support you…because with you goes the labor movement. With you goes workers’ rights. With you goes solidarity. With you goes everything.”

Workers at Staten Island’s LDJ5 sorting facility began voting in their own union election on Monday April 25, after witnessing their brothers and sisters at the Amazon JFK 8 fulfillment center across the street become part of U.S. Labor history by voting on April 1 to unionize under the ALU banner.

American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein called ALU members an inspiration and urged Amazon workers at the LDJ5 sorting facility to “roll the union on.”

“We work in the same industry as all of you — and we’re either going to rise together or we’re gonna fall together,” the head of the more than 200,000-member APWU said. “You inspired workers all over this country. You inspired unions all over this country.” 

JFK8 warehouse workers decisively won their union election by more than 500 votes earlier this month, despite thousands of votes ballots cast. The LDJ 5 sorting facility is a much smaller workforce consisting of some 1,500 workers. The vote continues on April 27, 28 and 29. 

“I’ve seen people fired for two minutes off the clock,” LDJ 5 organizer Mark Saber told rally-goers. “I’ve seen people fired for just sitting on the stairs on break. We need a union to listen to our voices, to listen to our concerns.”

ALU organizers say they won their groundbreaking JFK 8 union election earlier this month through persistent and sustained “shop floor” interactions with their fellow workers that often manifested in ongoing outdoor barbecues and even lengthy bus stop discussions.  

Efforts by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union [RWDSU] to successfully organize Amazon workers at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama remain doubtful even after the NLRB determined Amazon rigged the election last year, and ordered a revote in February.

Kshama Sawant, Socialist Seattle city council member and persistent Jeff Bezos foil, called the ALU’s winning approach to organizing on Staten Island an example of “class struggle strategy.” One that “stands in stark contrast” to much of the “business unionism” that has prevailed in the labor movement over the last 40 years — “the false idea that somehow you can win over the bosses through moral arguments, but not by mobilizing the membership, taking strike actions, doing work stoppages. In short — doing everything that JFK 8 did.” 

“That is the lesson we need to draw,” Sawant said, “That the power in the bargaining room comes from worker power in the workplaces and on the streets.”

Other unions supporting LDJ 5 workers at the Sunday rally included the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, UFCW, New York State Nurses Association, Laborers Local 79, TWU Local 100 and others. 

After 25 years in the labor movement and “praying like hell that people would wake up to their power,” Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International President Sara Nelson called the ALU the answer to her prayers. 

“[Amazon has] destroyed the eight-hour day,” Nelson said. “They have destroyed vacation [days]. They have made us work harder for less. You’ve seen that chart of American productivity going through the roof. Where did all that money go? Into the hands of Wall Street. Into the hands of the billionaires. [Well], we’re taking our money back.”

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